Congress left town last week for a two week recess over the Easter holiday after both the House of Representatives and the Senate passed their respective budget blueprints. Congress is also poised to adopt legislation that would permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) Medicare physician repayment formula when they return on the week of April 13th.
President Obama unveiled his budget in February 2015, marking the start of budget season. President Obama’s budget would add $6 trillion in spending, and raise revenues by $1.44 trillion over a ten year period. Two weeks ago, Republicans in the House of Representatives passed their own budget. The House Republican budget cuts $5.5 trillion in spending and keep revenues constant over a ten year period. Last week, the Republicans in the Senate passed their own budget, after a 16 hour marathon voting session called vote-a-rama. The Republican Senate budget cuts $5.1 trillion in spending and also keeps revenues constant over a ten year period.
Now, the House and Senate Republicans have to reconcile the differences in their respective budgets. The plan is to hammer out these differences through a conference committee by April 15, 2015. Should they be successful, it will be important to see both the spending allocation for the next fiscal year, and what “reconciliation” instructions are included in the final document, the so-called conference report. If the conference report passes both the House and the Senate, the appropriations committees will get to work on the spending details for the next fiscal year with the top line spending number established and Congress will be able to use the reconciliation instructions to send controversial legislation to President Obama’s desk by simple majority. The American Retirement Association GAC team is closely monitoring further budget developments and will inform you of the details if and when a final agreement is reached and enacted.
Last week, the House of Representatives reached a bipartisan agreement to permanently address the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) formula with a new payment system. The House voted 382-37 on March 26 2015 to pass the legislation (H.R. 2). It is currently pending in the Senate. In addition to repealing the SGR formula, the bill would extend the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and provide funding for Community Health Centers for an additional two years through September 30, 2017. To help offset some of the cost of the legislation, the bill contains provisions that would increase Medicare premium payments and limit Medigap plan coverage for high-income earners. The bill represents the most significant reforms to the federal health system since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
Retirement Security Caucus
In March 2015, Retirement Security Caucuses were established in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Caucuses will serve as an educational and policy formation platform in Congress that Members can use to raise awareness about retirement savings and planning. The Retirement Security Caucus in the House is co-chaired by Representatives Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and Richard Neal (D-Mass.). The Senate co-chairs are Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).